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Saturday, Aug. 17, 2002
Personal grooming goes grossly public
By AMY CHAVEZ
Of all the changes we have seen in Japan over the past 10 years, one really stands out: personal grooming. It used to be that people did their personal grooming privately, behind closed doors. But nowadays, the Japanese people have gone public. Sometimes there are so many women on the train applying makeup that it seems the passengers are getting ready to go on stage rather than to work. I wonder what this will lead to next -- cast parties?
The other day, a high school student sat down on the train next to me and started plucking her eyebrows. She held an oversize pocket mirror to her face while flicking the offending brow hairs off the tweezers onto the floor. Apparently, this woman was way behind in her brow-plucking schedule, because she continued for 20 minutes. I sat in fear of a brow hair changing trajectory in midair and lodging itself in my stockings.
Public grooming is not limited to young girls either. I have seen high school boys on trains open their compact mirrors and scrutinize their complexions. Some even brandish eyebrow kits for a bit of last-minute, before-class tweezing.
"Salarymen" can sometimes be seen using battery-powered shavers on the train. I have often realized, while reaching up to grab one of those subway straps, that I had forgotten to shave my armpits that morning. Now I can consider: Should I? Maybe that guy over there would let me borrow his shaver.
One result of watching so many public performances of personal grooming is that I have picked up some makeup tips. These tips will not only help you when applying makeup, they will also ensure you give a good performance to your audience. If it's your first time performing in public, don't worry. There's no need to be nervous. Just be yourself:
1) Eyelash curling involves holding a clamping apparatus up to the eye and catching the eyelashes between the clamps. If your audience has never seen this before, it will grab their attention as if you were a tightrope walker in a circus. Once you have gotten hold of the eyelash, clamp and hold. To gross out your audience, tug on the apparatus, stretching the eyelid a good few centimeters away from the eyeball. When onlookers suddenly turn away, you will know you have been effective.
2) When it comes to applying mascara, 20 coats is the minimum. Apply mascara to the top lashes, brushing over and over until all onlookers are thinking, "When IS she going to stop?!" Stop, take a good, long look in the mirror, then start again, vigorously wiggling the mascara wand back and forth, making sure to get between each and every lash. When the thickness is near that of cream cheese on toast, add a few more coats.
3) There really is no limit to the amount of eye shadow one can use. One way to measure the effectiveness is to apply the layers of color until your audience begins to show grave concern by wrinkling their foreheads.
4) Use a sponge to go over your face again and again with foundation. Since a white complexion is favored in Japan, this may require many many applications of the white stuff. Don't neglect to sponge into the creases on each side of your nose. When applying blush to the cheeks, be adamant about showing your colors. Applying blush requires catching all angles of the face in the mirror, so you'll probably find that your oversize "compact" mirror just isn't big enough. No matter, you have the whole train ride to adjust mirror angles.
As you stand up to get off at your stop, act shy and bow politely as you excuse yourself through the crowd. You should feel your audience is pleased with the improvements they have witnessed.
Contact Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the "Japan Lite" home page at www.amychavez.com